Arid3b, a member of the conserved ARID family of transcription factors, is essential for mouse embryonic development but its precise roles are poorly understood. Here, we show that Arid3b is expressed in the myocardium of the tubular heart and in second heart field progenitors. Arid3b-deficient embryos show cardiac abnormalities, including a notable shortening of the poles, absence of myocardial differentiation and altered patterning of the atrioventricular canal, which also lacks epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition. Proliferation and death of progenitors as well as early patterning of the heart appear normal. However, DiI labelling of second heart field progenitors revealed a defect in the addition of cells to the heart. RNA microarray analysis uncovered a set of differentially expressed genes in Arid3b-deficient tissues, including Bhlhb2, a regulator of cardiomyocyte differentiation, and Lims2, a gene involved in cell migration. Arid3b is thus required for heart development by regulating the motility and differentiation of heart progenitors. These findings identify Arid3b as a candidate gene involved in the aetiology of human congenital malformations.